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Safe is a photographic and audio installation built into a small room. Hanging like an icon across each corner of the room is an enlarged magazine photograph of a group of black people apparently enjoying a relaxed social event: perhaps a family reunion. Silk-screened texts reinforce this seductively inclusive atmosphere. ‘We are around you,’ they proclaim; ‘we are among you,’ ‘we are within you,’ ‘you are safe.’ This comfortable ambience is shattered by the audio track playing within the room. Piper is heard describing the smiling group portraits as ‘sardonic.’ The audio script broadcasts the internal monologue of an unwitting bigot for all to hear, mixed with fragments of Bach’s Aria No. 4 from St Matthew’s Passion – the song that Peter sings when he realises he has denied knowing Christ three times. Piper holds out the possibility of reconciliation, while simultaneously confronting the white viewer with the hypocrisy of this desire.


24 September – 07 November 1999